KATHMANDU, Sept 18: Demanding that the government amend the recently endorsed Compulsory and Free Education Act, the Private and Boarding Schools Organization Nepal (PABSON) has threatened to stage stringent protests from October 18 if the demand is not met.
Parliament only recently endorsed a bill related to compulsory and free education. The bill included a provision for private schools to provide scholarships to 10 to 15 percent of their students. It also included a tax of 25 percent on private school incomes, according to PABSON.
"We can't implement the varying ranges of scholarships at private schools as per the new law," said Bijaya Sambahamphe, president of PABSON. "In the past, we provided scholarships to 10 percent of the students as per the law," he said. According to Sambahamphe, about 200,000 students were provided scholarships annually at some 6,000 schools. However, the new law provisions 10 percent scholarships at schools with 500 students, 12 percent scholarships at schools with up to 800 students and 15 percent scholarships at schools with over 800 students."The percentage range of scholarships should be 10 percent for all schools," said Sambahamphe. "The scholarships meant for needy students were provided to the children of powerful and well-to-do families," he said. "We demand a provision for transparency and good management."Sambhahamphe further said that the new law should include provisions for students from private schools to benefit from government scholarships in higher education. "Students in private schools who are from the indigenous, Dalit, disabled, marginalized and female categories are deprived of the 45 percent seats reserved by the government for these groups under the old law," he said.
The government should appoint representatives from private schools in the commissions formed by the government to deal with issues related to private schools, he said.
If the demands raised by the private schools are not addressed by October 17 , PABSON plans to stage stringent protests nationwide. "We will begin protests after October 17 unless our demands are met by then," said Sambahamphe. "However, we are yet to finalize the form of the protests."
HEED THE LAW OR FACE ACTION: MINISTER TO PABSON
Minister for Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal has warned of taking legal action against private school owners if they refused to provide completely free education for up to 15 percent of their students as provided for in a new law.
In the wake of protest threat from private school owners demanding amendment to the law, Minister Dhakal said that the government may seek legal remedy if they ignored the new law. “If anyone violates the law, they will face the consequences,” Dhakal said when asked about PABSON's protest against the law.
Parliament recently endorsed the Right to Education Bill making it mandatory for private schools to arrange completely free education for at least 10 to maximum 15 percent of total school students. In the definition, the law has further explained that schools cannot ask for money under any title from the students pursuing 'completely free' education.
Former Chairman of PABSON Umesh Shrestha himself was involved in the lawmaking process in the parliamentary committee of Education and Health. Shrestha, however, didn't protest against the provision in the committee during the finalization of the bill. Earlier, the government had proposed that private schools would be liable for providing complete free education for flatly 10 percent students of each class.